The ousted former deputy president of NUMSA, Ruth Ntlokotse, says she was expelled by corrupt leaders in the union. (NUMSA logo from website copied for fair use)
By Daniel Steyn
Expelled former deputy president of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) Ruth Ntlokotse says she was ousted by the beneficiaries of corruption within the union leadership.
The current leadership “is not acting in the interests of its members”, Ntlokotse told a press conference on Thursday, after a NUMSA central committee meeting voted to dismiss her on 7 July.
Ntlokotse said the disciplinary process was biased and that she had been denied legal representation.
NUMSA is the biggest trade union in South Africa. But Ntlokotse said the union is “bleeding members” because of corruption at the leadership level.
She had harsh words for general secretary Irvin Jim and his role in the debacle of NUMSA-owned insurance company 3Sixty Life. On 1 March 2022, GroundUp broke a story that Irvin Jim’s birthday party had been paid for by 3Sixty Life, which services NUMSA’s members. This was the first in a series of stories about the mismanagement of 3Sixty Life, which was placed under curatorship by the Prudential Authority after becoming insolvent.
During her press conference, Ntlokotse accused Jim of committing perjury in a 2022 affidavit, in which he said that NUMSA was unaware of complaints about 3Sixty Life.
Ntlokotse said there is documentary evidence that members had complained about poor service from 3Sixty Life as early as 2018.
She said Jim was now attempting to silence members critical of NUMSA’s “corrupt leadership”.
“Members must call for a forensic audit of the investment company and a lifestyle audit on their leaders,” she said.
“The road to reclaim NUMSA…is not going to be an easy one.”
Ntlokotse is also president of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), to which NUMSA belongs. In a letter to SAFTU leadership on 10 July, Jim argued that Ntlokotse’s expulsion from the union disqualified her from remaining in office as SAFTU’s president.
Ntlokotse said she would be guided by the decision of the SAFTU National Executive Committee on whether she should step down as president.
Ntlokotse was elected second deputy president of NUMSA in 2016 and President of SAFTU in May 2022.
Her battle with the leadership of the union made headlines in July 2022 when she was suspended from NUMSA on various charges of misconduct. She said her suspension was a bid to silence her in the 3SixtyLife issue and took NUMSA to the Labour Court. On 23 July, the court granted an interdict preventing NUMSA from holding its national congress and overturning Ntlokotse’s suspension on the basis that it was against NUMSA’s constitution.
But NUMSA went ahead and held the national congress despite the court interdict.
Ntlokotse then approached the Labour Court again, asking the court to hold NUMSA in contempt and declare the elected leadership null and void.
On 23 August 2022, the court ruled against Ntlokotse, agreeing with NUMSA’s argument that it had already remedied constitutional breaches by lifting the suspensions and it was not in contempt of court.
GroundUp asked NUMSA for comment but no response had been received by the time of publication. Comment will be added when it is received.
NUMSA spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola responded: “NUMSA has noted that GroundUp continues to allow itself to be used as a platform to peddle Ruth’s lies. She told the same lies over a year ago when she went to court, and to date, she has not provided a shred of evidence to back it up but GroundUp persists in publishing these unproven allegations, as facts. We are not going to waste time responding to persistent lies from a disgruntled former member of the union, with no locus standi because she was expelled. She was also roundly rejected at the last congress in July 2022, because not a single region nominated her for re-election. Ruth and her shenanigans are a distraction from the serious work of the union”.